A book without words can still have meaning as a book. If I were to hand you a book with no words anywhere on or in it, you’d still probably know what to do with it.
In the time of the ancient Egyptians books were common, but they held no words you or I would be able to read and they often came in unbound stacks or long rolls of paper. Coloring books are typically lacking words, yet it’s easy to still think of them as books as you turn their pages.
Even if you don’t recognize the things in a book, there are other identifying attributes that make its purpose clear. This thing, this collection of shapes or illustrations or photographs, is meant to communicate a lot of things in a condensed way.
What makes a book a book if it’s not words?
If a book is anything comprised of a series of pages bound together, does that make all digital books illegitimate? If you take all of the pages out of a book and lay them out flat next to one another, is that still a book or merely a collection of pages?
Is a book the covers that bound the pages together? Could you hypothetically have a one paged book? Does a birthday card count as a type of book?
The way to answer any of these questions is exactly what happens in our brains, automatically, any time we encounter what we consider to be a book. First we ask “What does this remind me of?” Then we ask “Why does this remind me of it?”
If I were to hand you a stack of candy wrappers, sewn together at one end, you might not like the idea of it being a book but you’d at least know what to do with it.
In anything you experience or encounter, it’s important to know that you’re asking what it reminds you of and why the thing reminds you of it. These are two fundamental ways we perceive the world. When we step back to really think about these questions and our interpretations of them, our perceptions can change. That change is often where new ideas are hiding.
The world doesn’t radically change overnight to stir up new ideas. What changes are our perceptions, our answers to the questions of why things remind us of other things and why we think that is so.